Chronic Wasting Disease in Bank Voles: Characterisation of the Shortest Incubation Time Model for Prion Diseases
In order to assess the susceptibility of bank voles to chronic wasting disease (CWD), we inoculated voles carrying isoleucine or methionine at codon 109 (Bv109I and Bv109M, respectively) with CWD isolates from elk, mule deer and white-tailed deer. Efficient transmission rate (100%) was observed with mean survival times ranging from 156 to 281 days post inoculation. Subsequent passages in Bv109I allowed us to isolate from all CWD sources the same vole-adapted CWD strain (Bv109ICWD), typified by unprecedented short incubation times of 25–28 days and survival times of ~35 days. Neuropathological and molecular characterisation of Bv109ICWD showed that the classical features of mammalian prion diseases were all recapitulated in less than one month after intracerebral inoculation. Bv109ICWD was characterised by a mild and discrete distribution of spongiosis and relatively low levels of protease-resistant PrPSc (PrPres) in the same brain regions. Despite the low PrPres levels and the short time lapse available for its accumulation, end-point titration revealed that brains from terminally-ill voles contained up to 108,4 i.c. ID50 infectious units per gram. Bv109ICWD was efficiently replicated by protein misfolding cyclic amplification (PMCA) and the infectivity faithfully generated in vitro, as demonstrated by the preservation of the peculiar Bv109ICWD strain features on re-isolation in Bv109I. Overall, we provide evidence that the same CWD strain was isolated in Bv109I from the three-cervid species. Bv109ICWD showed unique characteristics of “virulence”, low PrPres accumulation and high infectivity, thus providing exceptional opportunities to improve basic knowledge of the relationship between PrPSc, neurodegeneration and infectivity. Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a prion disease that affects free-ranging and captive cervids and is expanding increasingly in the USA and Canada. Animal models are of key importance in the study of prion diseases but their development for CWD has long been hampered by its very inefficient transmission to wild-type mice. Significant progress was made following the generation of transgenic mice over-expressing cervid PrP. Here we show that the bank vole (Myodes glareolus), a wild rodent species that we demonstrated to be susceptible to many animal and human prion diseases, is also very susceptible to CWD from elk, mule deer and white-tailed deer. Adaptation of CWD to bank vole led to the isolation of a prion strain with peculiar characteristics: unprecedented short incubation and survival times, respectively of 25–28 and ~35 days, low PrPSc levels compared with other vole-adapted prion strains and high infectious titre. These features were all faithfully maintained upon the generation of this strain in vitro by protein misfolding cyclic amplification. The development of a model for prion diseases that led to disease in less than one month accumulating high infectious titres but low PrPSc levels, represents a significant tool for investigating the still unclear relationship between PrPSc, neurodegeneration and infectivity in prion diseases.